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Want to Be an Entrepreneur?
When did you first realize you were an entrepreneur?
Very early on in life. Whenever I would ride in the car with my father to a sports practice or game he would play motivational talk tapes. Whether it was Denis Waitley, Earl Nightingale or Dale Carnegie, I loved listening to their stories about people who overcame incredible odds and persisted until they found success. I learned at a young age about the power of positive thinking and the importance of taking action and being accountable for my life.
What types of people make successful entrepreneurs?
People who have an extreme need to achieve and are driven to the point where others may consider their passion to be over-the-top or even unhealthy. Most entrepreneurs have a hard time ‘fitting in’ as an employee or finding any shred of satisfaction in what they’re doing while working for a company because they are building something for someone else. I worked for ten long years in sales and management roles in various industries and although by most standards was ‘successful’, as a professional I didn’t have an identity and I felt like an absolute failure. To some people that statement may sound sad and pathetic, but it will resonate with entrepreneurs.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
While there are bona fide visionaries out there with the ability to trail-blaze and pioneer new markets, most entrepreneurs will find success by simply focusing on things such as improving business models, increasing internal efficiencies, and enhancing the customer experience. Part of the reason why it took me so long to finally branch out on my own was because I was only focusing on finding a ‘game changer.’ I love the game of baseball so to put it in baseball terms; I was only looking for a pitch I could hit out of the park, rather than recognizing all the existing opportunities around me that I could seize to hit for a single or double. My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is, test as many different industries as you can early in your career. Once you've identified an industry you have a passion for, find the best company in that industry and go work there. Learn everything you can about why they are successful and then identify soft spots or underserved areas where you feel you can improve upon. Then tailor your go-to-market strategy to fully capitalize on those soft spots and go for it.
Is it better to partner with someone or go at it alone?
I believe strongly in the value of having a partner(s) to help you successfully navigate through the entrepreneurial journey. The fact is, it can be a bumpy road at times and it is important to have a confidant with whom you can confer with and someone who can provide a different perspective. It is obvious to point out that you should partner with someone who shares your values, vision and work ethic, but perhaps a lesser known essential is that you must find someone that is the polar opposite of yourself in terms of the skillsets they bring to the company. Most people go into business with a good friend because they think alike and act alike. This is a mistake. Two people with the same skills and thought processes will end up duplicating efforts and stepping on each other’s toes. Not to mention the fact that there are important variables you will never consider because you are too likeminded. When preparing to launch your business, identify all of your areas of proficiency and then go find a strong partner that can fill in the gaps.
What is the payday for being an entrepreneur?
Candidly, when we started out, I was driven 100% by how much revenue we could generate. Over time that has evolved into wanting to build and create a brand that people recognize in a positive light, a brand that my family and our team and their families can be proud of. Another major payday comes from creating new jobs. It’s an amazing and humbling feeling to be able to provide employment and hopefully a positive environment for good, honest, hardworking people. At only 35 employees, CMS is still very modest in terms of providing jobs to the local economy, but within the next few years the company plans to partner with one of the many growth capital partners that have contacted us. I foresee a time when we will employ over 100 individuals.
David Decker Bio:
David Decker is a co-founder and the President of Complete Merchant Solutions (CMS), an electronic payments company. Under his leadership CMS has grown to nearly $40M in annual revenues and achieved double digit growth (or more) each year it’s been in business. CMS has also been recognized in the Inc. 500 the last two consecutive years as one of the fastest growing privately held companies in America.